The programming language market (was Re: [Haskell-cafe] Why functional programming matters

jerzy.karczmarczuk at jerzy.karczmarczuk at
Sat Jan 26 17:48:07 EST 2008

Dipankar Ray writes: 

> I should point out that certain US-trained mathematicans (myself included) 
> are actually quite jealous of the Russian math education system - they 
> produce mathematicians who tend to be excellent...

> Anyway, no we're older, and we realize that it would have helped our math 
> understanding out quite a bit had we learned more physics, engineering, 
> etc. Or had we learned 19th century mathematics well. The Russian program 
> seems to do this, actually (at least for the sample set of kids that make 
> it to the US). 
> What you're telling me below is that part of this emphasis on old-world 
> mathematics might have come from an arrogance/bias against computers? 
> Interesting - I'll have to think about this. 
> I've often heard from my Eastern European colleagues that they learned 
> almost nothing about computer science back home...

Well, I have the impression, at least I intended to say just the reverse
(not the opposite), that the arrogance/bias against computers has been
partly "justified" by a very good level in math. The decision makers
confounded the math science with the domain of computation...
[[Let's skip the ideological war against cybernetics as the reactionary
pseudo-science which would enslave the proletarian class. End of '50,
beginning of '60 this was already completely anecdotical, although some
bitter aftertaste persisted...]] 

The stagnation in the development of automatics followed the same pattern.
"We have good, brave people. Who needs 'em robots"... 

It is an *established fact* that some part of casualties during the struggle
to confine Tchernobyl could have been avoided, if the authorities thought
more about replacing humans with machines. But not only the authorities,
folks themselves rushed to help, and safety measures were not respected as
they should have been if a more "liberal" doctrine, with calculation of risk
"à l'Américaine", prevailed. 

And, PLEASE, Artem V. Andreev, before you say plainly again that I am
"definitely wrong". I didn't invent what I say, and I hope nobody can accuse
me of any inimical thoughts against Russians.
You say: 

> Not wishing to refute your general point, I can only note that U.S.S.R did 
> have its own school of computer science in general, and of developing
> programming language implementations in particular. 
> There were Fortran and Algol compilers, there is Refal, after all, 
> which is a purely Soviet invention (and which, for that matter, 
> is still being taught in several Russian universities).
> So in this particular respect you are definitely wrong.

Please compare the size of the country, the achievements in military
equipment, cosmic exploration, etc., with what we could have seen in the
development of software... An Algol compiler has even been built in my
Poland, much smaller and miserable. Nothing to be proud of. 

My goodness, Refal... You mean the Turchin stuff? OK, OK... Nice guy,
*really*. Nice idea. And no consequences... 

Nothing bad can I say, because I know a tiny bit about the related
stuff. The language Snobol (Griswold et al.), was also based on Markov
algorithms (and some centuries ago I wrote a small textbook on Snobol,
I planned to teach at that time in Poland. I knew that Refal existed, and...
I couldn't learn anything more). 

I wonder how much could do Markov himself (1903 - 1979),
 - his: "Theory of Algorithms" was published by the  American Mathematical
Society Translations in 1960, - if he lived in a more open society, which
could *better* exploit the potential of these people. 

Do you think that I haven't heard about A.P. Yershov? ACM still cites him,
his papers on the system ALPHA (JACM 1966), programming of arith. ops.
(CACM 1958), etc. Some other names deserve mentioning as well. But what the
system did, cannot be defended. This "School of computer science" gave some
theory to the humanity. But no, or almost no software, sorry. I *sincerely*
hope that it changed now. 

Jerzy Karczmarczuk 

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